A leaders’ time is their most important asset. If we are effective as leaders, where we invest our time yields a return. However, many leaders, myself included, have often pursued a different path. We chased the holy grail of improving our time management skills. We were wrong.

Yes, I’m a huge fan of eliminating time wasters and creating efficiencies – this is common sense. However, time management is a myth – you may have heard this before, but I’ll say it again…

No one can manage time.

Time is its own boss, and its metronome is set: 86,400 seconds in a day, 168 hours in a week, 24 hours in a day and 365.2 days per year. That’s it. You can’t manage that.

So, if time management is not the right paradigm for a leader to embrace, how should we approach the question of how we are to steward our time? I’m gaining more and more clarity on this – for me, the real issue is alignment.

Alignment as it relates to the investment of my seconds, minutes and hours toward the accomplishment of what really matters. Alignment is a challenge we can approach and a battle we can win – unlike attacking the impenetrable walls of time.

How does this idea work? Here are some of my recent thoughts.

Alignment begins with clarity on what matters most. As with much of leadership, this is much easier to say than to do. There will always be competing priorities and tensions that must be managed. However, as a leader, if you aren’t clear on a short list of YOUR priorities, my guess is you’ll never approach real alignment.

Alignment is enhanced when those around you understand your priorities. If you’re in a position of leadership, you’re attempting to lead people to some desired future state. True alignment requires people to know not only the destination but the path you’ll take to get there. It’s also helpful if those around you understand your role and personal priorities. Perhaps they can help you stay on course.

Alignment is challenged when we allow others to redirect our use of time. I’ve never met an effective leader who was in total control of their time. Part of our ongoing role is to respond to the unexpected. However, we’ve got to be extremely careful not to let others hijack our calendar. If we do, we can quickly become misaligned. Firefighters are rarely aligned with the long-term goals of an organization. How much time have you invested in the last 6 months fighting someone else’s fires?

Alignment is achieved when we invest our best energy on what matters most. This is probably stating the obvious. It makes sense;it is very hard to do. As we approach the new year, perhaps a look back is in order. Have you ever done a time audit? Consider a detailed review of the last year and ask yourself: How much time did I invest on my priorities?

Alignment does not guarantee success. It only enhances our chances. Sometimes, you and I can invest 100% of our time on activities that are of utmost importance and still fail to achieve the desired outcomes. That is to be expected from time to time. You will not win them all. However, if goals are not achieved, I want to be sure it’s not because I was out of alignment.

As you begin to think about your 2014 Plan, what are your priorities? How can you personally be more aligned in the new year?[GLS_Shield]

Author: Mark Miller

Mark is a business leader, author, communicator, photographer, husband, and father. He spends his time helping leaders grow.